The term originated from the label given to Greek actors in a theater but later became a negative connotation for those seeking to deceive others. Simply stated, a hypocrite is someone who pretends to be someone (s)he is not. We live in a day where it seems as if hypocrisy is not only expected but is accepted. Our culture manufactures, then glamorizes, a picture of life to be emulated that does not exist. It has become normal to pursue the image of an idealized life rather than the life itself. Social media has magnified this desire to appear as though we are constantly experiencing a successful and fulfilling life. We spend money we do not have to appear as something we are not in order to impress people who ultimately do not care.
It is common for photographers to get hired to stage photoshoots for social media influencers with cars, clothes, and vacations they cannot afford. In turn, others see these photos and false claims about the cars, the clothes, or travel and seek to imitate a thing that never existed. As ridiculous as it seems, I have even seen this same mentality while walking through an Ikea store as shoppers are sprawled out in the staged rooms taking selfies as if it is their home.
Hypocrisy is not always as seemingly harmless as photos posted to social media. It is on display from the most powerful political leaders in our society. Our government leaders champion free speech and freedom of the press while intimidating, investigating, and jailing journalists who write against their political interests with damning evidence.
Hypocrisy is also rampant in the Church. Christian leaders sacrifice their integrity for political expedience as they excuse and perpetuate the hypocrisy of a President who temporarily claimed faith in order to gain votes. Even now, many of them perpetuate a lie to save face – a lie that has cost the lives of many in our nation.
Jesus had a lot to say about religious leaders who held onto power through appearance and performance. He called them “whitewashed tombs, which on the outside look beautiful, but inside they are full of the bones of the dead and of all kinds of filth” (Matthew 23:27). Every realm of our lives is nearly inescapably being daily impacted by hypocrisy, whether imposed by others or intentionally projected by ourselves in some way. Industry goals and ambitions of notoriety have turned every level of our society into one big stage.
So, what is the solution? Much of the problem in our culture lies in the fact that we enjoy the false narrative we have created. Instead of searching for the unseen good behind the image of the good, we would rather cling to a façade that is anchored upright by hypocrisy, even when we know hypocrisy is the only thing keeping it stable. Rather than embarking on a journey, we have decided it is more comfortable to simply look as if we are on the journey. The cost of hypocrisy is that it drains our energy and results in emptiness. Hypocrisy requires that we maintain and grow an ever-increasing false depiction, until it encompasses our behaviors as we are absorbed into our own work of fiction. We are then forced to constantly bear the weight of living a duplicitous life.
We may seek for the answers to our problems from within ourselves, but we know it is futile. We are the reason for our weary state. We voluntarily choose enslavement to chasing an image that is constantly changing and proving itself to be nothing more than a mirage, while God extends an invitation to be joined into a reality for which we were created. While everything the world offers requires us to die seeking it, Jesus offers the opposite, “Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest…I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls” (Matthew 11:28-29). Although an imperfect community awaiting perfection, Jesus extends an invitation to be a part of a city/community/church built on forgiveness and grace. Forgiveness allows us to reveal ourselves fully, while grace enables us to live as imperfect beings without the need for a façade. Rather than enslavement to our own deceit, we can live our lives in the freedom of honesty as we seek to love those around us.